Sometimes I wish that I was not so proficient at tracking down information (either for myself or for other people). I’ve long had the reputation of being someone who could find anything, if it was on paper or in a public record. But I uncovered some information this weekend that has set many events in motion and which has kept Steph tied up in knots since late Friday afternoon.
A woman in my office at the Industrial Commission asked me to check the Sex Offenders’ Registry because she had some suspicions about a guy who moved into a house on her block. I typed in his name using last name first, followed by middle initial. (Her new neighbor was not listed.)
However, what was listed was a similar name. I thought the work address looked familiar, and suddenly it dawned on me: It was my church’s street address. The person in question is the church’s organist and children’s choir director.
I made a printout of the citation and brought it home to Steph. She had just left the choir, mainly because they seem to be a pretty unfriendly bunch, and Susie had told us she wasn’t enjoying children’s choir. But when I showed her the citation (the victim was listed as “child, male”), her jaw dropped open. She went white as a sheet, and was completely stunned. He was listed as a “sexually oriented offender.” She and I had learned that a registered sex offender was directing the children’s choir at our church.
The telephone has gotten quite a workout. She called her friend Amy, who teaches preschool and knows all about the background checks and police reports anyone working with children undergo (should undergo), and a friend of hers who is in the home stretch at Capital University Law School. She also called the sheriff’s department, and was told to call a detective there Monday morning.
Yesterday morning, she called the senior minister and said, right at the top, “Do you know that —- is a registered sex offender?” I only heard her end of the conversation, but the answer was yes. The gist of the discussion was that the church believes he is reformed, that the crime in question happened about 13 years ago, and that he has undergone extensive counseling and psychotherapy.
Two things appalled Steph. One was that the church did not lay its cards on the table to all parents saying, This is what this person has done in the past. We believe he’s mended his ways, but whether you want your children to be near him is up to you. The other thing we found beyond belief is that the church, from an insurance standpoint, is willing to assume this type of liability. After seeing what happened in the Roman Catholic Church, where diocese after diocese went bankrupt from paying court settlements and fines, it is utterly reckless for a church to hire a convicted sex offender and cross your fingers and hope nothing happens. Even an accusation could wipe the church out financially.
(What Steph was told about how he’s reformed, he’s had counseling, etc. was almost identical to what parishoners of many Catholic churches were told when bishops were moving pedophile priests from one parish to another–if they told them anything at all.)
So now we’ll be spending Sunday mornings at home with Charles Osgood and/or George Stephanopoulos. This morning we went grocery shopping at Aldi. Susie is upset because we’re having to leave another church where she was beginning to fit in and enjoy it (especially the Sunday school, where she made fast friends with a girl named Jensen and Jensen’s brother Ben). Whether this choir director has reformed or not is beside the point–the fact that the church wasn’t upfront about it from day one makes us unable to trust the clergy or administrative staff any further. They knew about this from before they hired this man!! From an insurance standpoint, this is suicidal.
It’s affected Susie much more drastically than we expected. Yesterday afternoon, she had an upset stomach and diarrhea, and was disinterested and listless, even when I took her to Burger King for dinner–one of her favorite fast food restaurants. She perked up a little when we watched some of the Star Trek (original series) VHS tapes I bought yesterday at the library sale. (They’re selling VHS tapes for practically nothing, since they’re replacing the titles with DVDs.)
She’s perked up this morning. The three of us had breakfast at McDonald’s, and then went grocery shopping. (Not one of my favorite activities–the idea that one can shop for pleasure is totally alien to me.) Steph went out to the outlet mall in Jeffersonville to buy Susie’s birthday presents (her birthday is next Friday; she’ll be nine), and I took Susie to Columbus Children’s Theatre to see Alexander, Who’s Not, Not, Not, Not, Not, Not Going to Move and laughed her head off. Then we came to the main library, which is where I’m banging away on the keyboard right now.
This is one of those weekends when going to work on Monday actually becomes something to look forward to. We are angry and incredibly upset about this revelation. My question is whether this would ever have come to light if I hadn’t stumbled across it while surfing the Sex Offender Registry.